Saint Louis University

Undergraduate Minor: Course Descriptions


Foundations Courses


HCE 2010: Foundations in Clinical Health Care Ethics

This course introduces students to the ethical dimensions of clinical medicine and offers them the basic language and methodology with which to critically examine these dimensions. The course format integrates lecture and active case discussion to provide both the necessary philosophical grounding and the real-world skills sought by students. The course will provide an introduction to basic ethical theory and various approaches to clinical ethical decision-making. In addition students will engage particular ethical issues, including truth-telling, informed consent, killing and letting die, conscientious objection and physician-assisted suicide. Students will investigate these issues through weekly in-class case discussion and periodically through written case-analysis.

HCE 2020/3020: Foundations in Catholic Health Care Ethics

This course examines ethical issues in health care through the lens of Catholic moral thought. Students will first be introduced to the terminology and approaches of secular bioethics in order to understand similarities and differences between a secular and Catholic approach. Students will then explore theological foundations for health care ethics, including Christian anthropology and the meaning of the Christian life as it relates to issues that arise in health care. The course will engage specific teachings of the Catholic Moral tradition that bear directly on issues of health care ethics, including reproductive technologies, contraception, end-of-life decision making and physician-assisted suicide. While studying these issues, students will become familiar with differing, sometimes opposing, viewpoints and approaches of Catholic thinkers. A course format integrating lecture and active case discussion will provide both an understanding of principles and the opportunity to develop practical dilemma-solving skills.


Elective Courses


HCE 3010: Ethical Issues in Clinical Medicine

This course examines practical problems in clinical biomedical ethics. It employs a case-based approach with supplementary readings on the general principles of biomedical ethics. Clinical problems related to the practice of medicine will be examined contextually, with attention to institutional, cultural, discursive and moral issues that undergird controversies in clinical ethics.

HCE 3200: Freaks and the Medical Body

This course has two parts. The first part examines the spectacles of the “freak shows” of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and how medical science participated in and legitimated the use of deformed and malformed people as both oddity of nature and object of medical and scientific interest. “Freaks” were showcased and used to expand medical knowledge. We will explore the way in which medical libraries gathered “specimens” of deformed persons for the purposes of expanding medical scientific knowledge. The second part of the course will begin with recent and contemporary “freak shows” as seen in programs like TLC’s Little People, Big World, NBC’s The Biggest Loser, and ABC News’ medical mystery series. These programs highlight various medical oddities and showcase their transformation. Yet, there is also something slightly different at work, because medicine not only showcases the oddities, but participates in their construction and creation as seen in programs like ABC’s Extreme Makeover, Fox’s The Swan, and E!'s Bridalplasty, in the cases of Octomom and the Ashley Treatment, and in art exhibitions like Orlan and Alba the bunny. This course will explore the themes of power and knowledge and the way in which certain forbidden spectacles gain respectability through the legitimating power of medicine and science, but also how medicine and science deploy that power/knowledge to create those very spectacles, along with our aesthetic and ethical sensibilities.

HCE 2210/3210: Superheroes and Social Justice: Introducing Bioethics through Comic Books

(May not be offered after Spring of 2015.) Ethical questions of medical research, the limits of technology, enhancement, reproduction, disability, personhood, and social justice have all been fruitfully discussed in the great American narrative medium of comics. Far from being a necessarily shallow medium, comics allows for a suspension of disbelief that renders philosophical thought experiments about morality not only accessible but also riveting. This course examines some of the best and most pertinent morality plays that the medium has to offer and uses these to introduce the student to the fundamentals of bioethics, and illuminate the practical implications for a modern health care ethics. (This course also aims to give non-HCE minors an introduction to issues in bioethics.)

HCE 3300: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Bioethics Through Film

Study abroad opportunity in Madrid, Spain. To learn more, click here.

HCE 4100: The Ethics of Illness, Disease and Society

Health, illness and disease are critical concepts in bioethics with far-reaching social and political implications. For instance, any attempt to educate physicians or regulate heath insurance must employ some standards that can be used to assess whether people are ill or not. This course will examine various concepts and theories of disease (including both objectivist and constructivist accounts), asking questions like “How do we decide if something is a disease?,” “Who gets to decide?” and “What are the societal implications of calling something a disease?”. The course will engage these questions and examine their ethical significance by looking at specific examples of how we conceptualize disease, (e.g. mental illness diagnostic categories and criteria) and the use of enhancement technologies in the practice of medicine.

HCE 4110: The Ethics of Race, Ethnicity and Identity

Across the health disciplines, prevention and population health activities are increasingly recognized as integral to the practice of their professions. These developments, along with managed care pressures, have made the health professions increasingly prone to reducing humans to populations or abstract groups. These disciplines and their discourses are also involved in the construction of specific and not necessarily unbiased conceptions of what constitutes health, wellbeing and disease. A growing number of scholars are becoming aware of the need for an ethics of health care and public health that considers the possible unintended but still untoward effects that these narrative and cultural constructions have for people, especially when the persons under discussion are being rendered as essentialized subjects instead of full persons. This course will attempt an appropriately rich consideration of the cultural constructions of the health professions and examine the ethical issues that arise.

HCE 4200: Warriors and Medics

The course studies the thought and lives of warriors and medics in order to understand their values, virtues, and wisdom - not only as these pertain to the struggle with mortality, but also to the human condition generally.

HCE 4210: Controversies in Death and Dying

This course examines current controversies in end-of-life care, utilizing a discussion and case-based teaching methodology. Various topics will be examined and discussed, from both pro and con perspectives. Topics will include: the definition of death, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, advance directives and end-of –life decision-making, killing vs. letting die and organ donation.

HCE 4220: Controversies in Reproductive Ethics

This course examines controversial ethical issues surrounding the use of reproductive technology and medicine. Both pro and con perspectives are critically discussed. Topics include: the moral status of the human embryo, maternal-fetal conflicts, contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, prenatal screening, cloning, and the derivation of embryonic stem cells for research purposes.

HCE 4240: Ethics and Geriatric Care (Service-learning internship)

This course is designed to introduce undergraduate students to the ethics and practice of geriatric medicine and the spiritual dimensions of end-of-life care. In addition to weekly seminar discussions, students will spend three hours each week volunteering, shadowing and engaging with residents at Beauvais Manor on the Park. In large part, seminar discussion will proceed from the students’ experiences at Beauvais, likely reflecting on issues such as the human experience of death and dying, meaning and transcendence, suffering and hope, and relationships at the end of life. In addition, discussion will integrate issues encountered in various fictional narratives of death and dying, assigned throughout the course.

Note: This course has specific GPA and eligibility requirements for registration including: 3.0 overall GPA, 3.0 math/science GPA, drug screen, TB test, background check and flu shot. Because some of these requirements take time to complete, you should contact Cynthia McKenna as soon as you think you might be interested in registering for the course.

HCE 4250: Law and Bioethics

This course will examine the ethical and jurisprudential issues related to areas of health care typically included in the field of bioethics. The course will introduce students to the leading ethico-legal approaches in analyzing cases and examining the judicial history and politics that gave rise to these.

HCE 4260: From Tuskegee to Henrietta Lacks: Race & Research Ethics

This course will explore the troubling history of the relationship between the American medical research establishment and African Americans, from slavery times up until the present. Tracing these historical abuses to the current research ethics climate between African Americans and research, as well as the safeguards and approaches currently implemented to improve this climate. Students will have the opportunity to actively engage the current state of affairs by thinking out of the box and creating potential solutions, and envisioning different future trajectories of this fraught relationship.

HCE 4270: Controversies in Organ Procurement & Transplantation

This course will examine controversies surrounding organ donation and transplantation. Topics will include: the significance (or insignificance) of ensuring donors of vital organs are dead; appropriate criteria for determining death; the significance (or insignificance) of explicit authorization of donors for donation after death; the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of incentives for living donation and for donation after death; the ethical character of organ marketing; appropriate treatment of potential donors who are minors or who lack decision-making capacity; and appropriate allocation of organs.



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